INDIANAPOLIS (ABP) – Soozi Whitten Ford, an ordained minister and longtime American Baptist leader, has been named executive minister of the American Baptist Churches of Indiana and Kentucky.
Her election, announced Jan. 23, ends a year-long search for a successor to former executive minister Larry Mason, who held the post 15 years before retiring at the end of 2010.
Ford has worked 13 years as associate executive minister for Mid-American Baptist Churches, serving 133 churches in Iowa and Minnesota. More recently she assumed a dual role, serving part-time as a stewardship facilitator with American Baptist Churches USA based in Valley Forge, Pa.
When she assumes the position in mid-March, Ford will be one of four women currently serving as executive minister of an ABC/USA regional affiliate, said Jeff Woods, associate general secretary for regional ministries.
"Rev. Ford is well known and respected throughout the ABC family,” Woods said. “Her unparalleled knowledge of stewardship, her passion for missional churches, her regional ministry experience, and her contagious and collaborative leadership style are well suited to advance the rich tradition of mission and ministry in this region."
Woods said there have been other female executive ministers in the past who have retired or moved on. One of them, Susan Gillies, executive minister of the American Baptist Churches of Nebraska for 10 years, served as president of the regional executive ministers council before she retired in 2010.
According to a report last year by the American Baptist Ministers Council, about one American Baptist pastor in 10 is a woman. When assistant or associate pastors are added, the number increases to 12 percent.
Women pastors serve in all 34 American Baptist regions, ranging from 1 percent of the total in West Virginia to 28 percent in Puerto Rico.
Ford is a graduate of Ottawa University and Central Baptist Theological Seminary, and has completed additional studies at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary in the area of ministry and technology. She was ordained by Prairie Baptist Church in Prairie Village, Kan., in 1982.
American Baptist Churches in Indiana/Kentucky includes 311 churches with 42,000 resident members, according to the ABC/USA website.
"Indiana and Kentucky has long been a model region for ministry among our ABC family and I am both humbled and excited to join in the work that God is doing here," Ford said.
Bob Allen is managing editor of Associated Baptist Press.